By Dave Broom
THERE was a party atmosphere at this year's London Wine Trade Fair. Normally, it's a reflection of the strange world that is the British wine trade, a bizarrely incongruous mix of easy-going New World producers and the stands manned by snooty stuffed shirts in pinstripe suits. It's a friendly but pretty low-key affair.
This year, however, the air was filled with the sounds of samba music and the sight of people dancing in the aisles. The centre of this jollity was the Spirits Pavilion, stuck at the rear of the second hall.
What a little treasure trove it turned out to be. There was Irish whiskey courtesy of Cooley, a mass of new Tequilas, a marvellous range from Malcolm Cowen (0181-965 1937) including Cracovia, a great organic potato vodka (don't snigger, it's a lush, soft drink), and a dry coffee/ chocolate liqueur from Flensburg made by a Trinidadian and named after a Haitian revolutionary, for those who don't like the sweetness of Kahl£a or Tia Maria.
To find out where the beat of the drum was coming from, you had to fight your way to the Brazilian stands where, late into the afternoon, you could catch the incongruous sight of old school ties being thrown in the air as the Establishment began to party with the young. It was weirdly reminiscent of William Hague turning up at Notting Hill and gingerly blowing on a whistle to show that he too had his finger on the off-beat.
Each of these dancing fools was clutching a caipirinha. It's not the first time that these have been tipped as the perfect summer cocktail, but the difference this time is the wider availability of their essential ingredient - cachaáa (Cachaáa "51", Grosvenor Wine & Spirits, 0181-591 7090; Pitu, Malcolm Cowen; IRB brands, including Tatuzinho, 3 Fazendas and Velho Barreiro, via Brazilian Embassy trade division, 0171- 499 0877).
Cachaáa, pronounced "kashassa", is Brazilian white rum made from sugar-cane juice, rather than the more common molasses, giving the best examples a delicate punch. A caipirinha with another white rum or vodka is a pale imitation.
It's one of the easiest cocktails to make. Take a lime and give it a good roll to release its juice before quartering it. Then take a strong glass - thick Duralex tumblers are perfect - and pop in the lime, skin side up, and pour over 1tsp simple syrup. Muddle these together for a couple of minutes. Then add ice, stir, then add 2oz cachaáa and stir again. That's it.
I've seen other fruits being used, but the point of a caipirinha is to have a lip-smacking, mouth-watering, refreshing hit - and that means limes. They are as deceptive as Brazilian music, which seems insubstantially pretty before it clobbers you with its sexy sway. I can't promise that you'll be sexy but, after one too many, you'll certainly sway. n